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Vegas embraces McInerney: 'It meant the world to me'

By Nick MentaNovember 6, 2017, 2:27 am

LAS VEGAS – Short of him walking away with the trophy, it is hard to imagine a better scene for A.J. McInerney than the one that played out Sunday at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.

In the field on a sponsor exemption, McInerney – the Las Vegas native who escaped the mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest festival on Oct. 1 – poured in a 30-foot birdie putt on the 18th green to close out a back-nine 30, a final-round 67, and his first PGA Tour event.

When the putt dropped, McInerney threw his arms in the air as the crowd around the final green responded with the largest roar of the week. Before walking off the course, he removed his hat, put his hands back in the air and applauded the galleries who have encouraged him for the last four days with shouts of “Let’s go, A.J.” and “Vegas Strong.”

“It was so much fun,” McInerney said. “Seeing Vegas come out strong today, it was amazing.”

When he emerged from the scoring trailer, he elicited another ovation from fans who had crowded around a fence to cheer him on one last time. He threw autographed balls to kids in the crowd, and when he stopped, the expression on his face changed, as if a switch had just flipped in his head. Suddenly, he looked tense.

Every time he was asked this week – and he was asked pretty much every day – McInerney swore that even if he were to finish in top 10, he would not accept the exemption into next week’s OHL Classic at Mayakoba. That’s because he is scheduled to play in the second stage of Tour Qualifying School, starting Tuesday at TPC Craig Ranch in Texas, where he’ll attempt to regain his status after finishing 97th last year on the money list.

Shriners Hospitals for Children Open: Articles, photos and videos

Full-field scores from the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open

But when he exited scoring on Sunday, tied for 11th, one shot away from an invite, his certainty had left him. As he scrambled to do interviews and greae well-wishers, all he really wanted to do was call his agent. McInerney knew he had 30 minutes after the end of the tournament to make a decision, assuming he had to make one.

And about an hour after he finished, a little past 4 p.m. PT, as Patrick Cantlay, Alex Cejka and Whee Kim were tangled up in a playoff, McInerney was still on the back porch at TPC Summerlin, surrounded by friends and family. J.J. Spaun’s double bogey-double bogey finish had suddenly moved McInerney from T-11 to T-10. Unlike before, this was no longer a hypothetical. He was now sitting on the invite to Mayakoba.

He talked on the phone and texted back and forth with his agent about what he should do. He was still booked on a Southwest Airlines flight to Dallas that was set to take off at 6:30 p.m. After ending a call, McInerney pulled aside Beau Hossler, as Hossler was leaving the scoring area, and solicited his advice. The two talked it over.

“I told him to go to second stage,” said Hossler, who graduated from the Tour after playing a smattering of PGA Tour events without status last year. “He could go tear it up in Mayakoba, but if he doesn’t, then he’s stuck. I told him to go to second stage.”

After another phone call, McInerney made his decision. He was, as he originally intended, turning down Mayakoba to head back to Q-School.

“I don’t know. I think that’s the best decision,” he said, still talking over the scenarios that would need to play out for him earn to special temporary status on the PGA Tour. “But if I don’t play well in Mayakoba, then I don’t have anything next year. I’m going to second stage to at least have a job next year.”

Reminded how many times this week he had insisted that he wouldn’t entertain a Mayakoba invite, McInerney didn’t even need to hear the end of the question.

“Yeah, well, until it’s a reality, you don’t really think it fully through,” he answered. “But yeah, I’m still going to stick to that. That was my gameplan to start with, and I’m just going to take care of business in second stage.”

And so, the deliberation was over. The dream week – after the nightmare he went through just one month ago – had officially come to an end.

Asked a couple of hours earlier to sum up the emotion of his week, McInerney thought back to when he first learned he was going to make his PGA Tour debut.

“Oh man, it started a couple Saturdays ago when I got the phone call [to play]. To come out here and kind of prove that I can play a little, I was proud of that.

“Then to be able to shoot 30 on the back side today, it was just kind of a storybook ending, I guess. It’s just great to see Las Vegas out here supporting this great event. For me to just be a small piece of that, and get these fans and this crowd going, it meant the world to me.”

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Kelly leads Monty, Couples, Langer in Hawaii

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

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Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.